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Depressed Addicted Women — Issues in Treatment and Recovery

Depressed addicted women are quite common. Women tend to be vulnerable to a substance-induced depression, for example. Women are also likely to have had a pre-existing depression before their substance use started. If women with both conditions do not resolve their depression, there is a higher risk for relapse in early sobriety. It is likely in that case that women will use substances in order to self-medicate the depressive symptoms.

The Problem Is a Two-Way Street

Co-existing depression and addiction is a two-way street. That is, depression threatens sobriety and continuing to use substances is likely to cause depression. The two conditions support and reinforce each other, each making the symptoms of the other worse. Addiction recovery is more than abstinence. It requires that one acquire healthier coping strategies and routines in daily life. With still active depression, however, one is apt to lack the energy and motivation to make necessary changes in early sobriety.

Women, Depression and Anger

Women in our culture tend to be prone to depression rather than to anger problems, although anger is frequently a significant element in depression. Men, on the other hand, are often socialized to more freely express anger, but not other emotions such as sadness and grief. Consequently, there can be significant differences in the ‘depressive styles’ among all people, but particularly between men and women. Women are apt to have more worry and rumination, or repetitive and negative thinking, in their depressive symptoms, and this may be a result of socialization as well. Researchers have documented that many women do not feel as free to express negative thoughts and emotions as many men do. However, the symptoms and dynamics of depression for everyone are rather universal.

Depression, Abuse, and Addiction

It is thought that 1 in every 4 women have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 18, and there are significant numbers of women in addiction treatment that have unresolved trauma issues. Sexual abuse is particularly devastating to anyone and when it occurs in childhood, the consequences can be devastating and lifelong without treatment and resolution. A child or teen is still forming their beliefs, self-image, coping strategies, personality, viewpoints and behavioral patterns. Sexual victimization becomes entwined in growth and development creating self-defeating and self-sabotaging patterns and dynamics that often lead to depression and substance use problems.

Dual Diagnosis

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